WITH the service ceilings of modern aircraft ever being raised, the importance of oxygen for crew members is, of course, paramount. The installation and maintenance of this equipment calls for special training of AAF ground-crew members. These men are trained in the use and servicing of the latest types of oxygen equipment as fast as it is developed by our research men. Known to the air forces as "Oxygen Johns," these men keep right up with the combat units as they move to the front that they may service the bombers and fighter planes as they return from missions. A fighter plane contains a small oxygen tank with a sufficient amount of oxygen for the pilot's mission. This must be checked each time the pilot takes off, for his very life depends upon its perfect functioning. These fighter tanks are filled from large tanks at the operations base, where the fighter pilot's mask and its connecting hose are inspected for signs of imperfection or wear or possible bullet holes. Aboard our huge bombers, movement of the crew members makes the use of "walk-around" bottles necessary. Each bottle has its own mask attached for its user. Special equipment is designed to facilitate the refilling of these "walkarounds" at the fighter base., where several are mounted in a special rack fed by a large tank of oxygen. Due to the great pressure, the adjustment of the valves and connections of this type of equipment is a matter for the experienced; hence the importance of the "Oxygen Johns" to the operation of a combat unit. The air force maintains special schools for the training of these men, where they are constantly advised of new techniques. With the advent of pressurized cabins and compartments, it is possible that the technique of oxygen supply will change with the new designs; but there will still be a demand for the services of these experts in installation of oxygen equipment wherever there are combat crews. After the war, with commercial and civilian private planes reaching new altitudes, the "Oxygen Johns" will take their places as experts.
This article was originally published in the September, 1943, issue, of Air Progress magazine, vol 3, no 3, p75.
The PDF of this article includes three photos, captioned:
- Individual "walk-around" oxygen bottles are checked with a gauge which registers pressure of gas; valves are inspected for leakage.
- Two "Oxygen Johns" check supply of Flying Fortress Banshee. Gas flows from cylinder in the truck to tanks inside the bomber.
- The small bottles are filled with oxygen from the long cylinder in foreground. Gauge determines correct pressure in each container.